This may be the most self-absorbed post I’ve ever written, and I apologize in advance for doing so, but I feel I have to say something (I have something else I’ll try to finish up later – if nothing else, you can consider this my response in advance to the next column that J.D. Mullane of the Bucks County Courier Times will surely write on this subject).
The Murdoch Street Journal here tells us the following…
In 1969, baby boomers took podiums at college graduations around the country and pledged to redefine the world in their image.For background purposes, I should tell you that I’m closer to Bennet that Friedman age-wise, so I definitely fall into the boomer demographic. However, I can definitely tell you that a Bush confidant (Daniels), a war-mongering hack columnist trying to reinvent himself as a friend of the earth (Friedman), and a senator from Colorado too chicken to admit his allegiance to the Democratic Party (Bennet – just try finding that information on his Senate web site) do NOT speak for me.
Forty years later, they have, and now they are apologizing for it. Their collective advice for the class of 2009: Don't be like us.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, 60 years old, told the graduating class of Butler University last month that boomers have been "self-absorbed, self-indulgent and all too often just plain selfish."
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, 55, told Grinnell College graduates in Iowa that his was "the grasshopper generation, eating through just about everything like hungry locusts."
And Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, at 44 barely a boomer himself, told seniors at Colorado College that the national creed of one generation standing on the shoulders of the next was at risk "because our generation has not been faithful enough to our grandparents' example."
Like many of you I’m sure, I did reasonably well in school growing up (probably could’ve done better with a subject or two, but there you are), and have thus far lived a pretty much run-of-the-mill life…married, working, helping to raise the young one, covering the bills, paying our taxes, trying to be good neighbors as well as citizens by voting and speaking out in a variety of public forums, to say nothing of political stuff while in college – you get the idea.
And for whatever it’s worth, I’m holding down a job to the best of my ability while constantly modifying my skill set in line with the needs dictated to me by my employer, all with the threat of our wretched economy looming in the background (hopefully not the foreground). And oh yeah, engaging in whatever family and recreational pursuits that our means allow.
I could probably be doing more of some things. But I could probably be doing less of other things also (mainly this, truth be told).
But here is my question; exactly what the hell is it that I’m supposed to apologize for?
Yes, I could probably be doing more in the way of service, but as far as I’m concerned, anyone who is a parent performs “a day of service” every day when they get out of bed. Yes, I could probably pursue alternatives to my daily commute in my car that could be more energy efficient, but since there’s no reliable mass transit alternative in sight, I don’t see any other choice.
And yes, I could probably be more confrontational towards people who litter in an attempt to respect our environment, but honking my horn at someone who throws a cigarette butt out the window is as daring as I get (I don’t know who’s “packing” and who isn’t any more – and by the way, I should say once more that we spent a few days in midtown Manhattan towards the end of last month, and there were stretches of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue that we walked that were cleaner than a lot of the Yardley/Lower Makefield area of Bucks County, PA…it’s about taking pride in where you live, people).
But I’m not the one who, for example, invented something called the “credit default swap” (I’ve read three different explanations of what exactly this thing is supposed to do, and I still don’t get it, which is more than a little scary when you realize that that and overvalued mortgage securities, as well as old-fashioned, pig-headed greed, supposedly rectified by massive shedding of payrolls all over this country, brought our economy to its metaphorical knees – obligatory disclaimer: I’m hardly a financial wizard).
I’m not the one who said, “deficits don’t matter” on the way to spending this country into debt so severely that, for the last thirty years or so, we’ve had to grovel primarily to the Saudis and the Chinese to finance our government and, thus, our wars.
I’m not the one who ignored the warnings about oil being a finite resource in the 1970s and failed to pursue alternative sources of energy and design more fuel-efficient vehicles.
I’m not the one who, as a consequence, ignored global warming. I’m not the one who failed to invest in job-creating research into embryonic stem cells lines that could hold the key to curing diseases and mitigating other bodily afflictions.
I’m not the one who actually thought it was sound for our economy to encourage the offshoring of our jobs and, thus, the severe degradation of the middle class that built the prosperity that too many of us have taken for granted.
And I’m sure as hell not the one who thought invading Iraq was a logical response to the 9/11 attacks, which were, first and foremost, an intelligence failure (and I’m also not the one who thought it was a sound, efficient use of our lawmakers time and the taxpayers’ money to launch an inquisition into the affair of a president and an intern, at the expense of, among other things, devoting more resources to the emerging – and legitimate – fight against terrorists in Afghanistan trained by our government in the 1980s).
Yes, maybe I should drive a few extra miles to shop at Costco instead of Target, but alas, I don’t (thus burning up more gas and contributing more than I might to the aforementioned global warming, which I never questioned after its existence was proved by our scientists).
And I will grudgingly admit that I also feel that, perhaps for the first time in this country’s history, we are not going to be handing a better standing of living to the generation after us than we inherited.
But I honestly don’t know what else I could have done to prevent that result.
I didn’t vote for Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush, even (voting for Dukakis was tough, but I did it). And I will admit that I was tricked into supporting Bill Clinton on “free” trade – once. And regarding his successor…well, if I didn’t vote for “41,” do I really need to tell you whether or not I voted for “43”?
And given everything I just said, I have a message for Daniels, Friedman, and Bennet, and it is merely this.
I’m a baby boomer also, and I’m not going to apologize for a damn thing.